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M. William Shakespeare: his True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters.
1608
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C.34.k.18, title page

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C.34.k.18, title page
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From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

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Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: M. William Shakespeare: his True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam. As it was played before the Kings Maiestie at Whitehall vpon S. Stephans night in Christmas Hollidayes. By his Maiesties seruants playing usually at the Gloabe on the Banckeside.
Date: London : Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Church-yard, etc., 1608. 
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: C.34.k.18, title page
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Item Creator
William Shakespeare
Item Title
M. William Shakespeare: his True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam. As it was ...
Item Date
London : Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Church-yard, etc., 1608.
Repository
The British Library, London, UK
Call Number
C.34.k.18, title page

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Terms of use
The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: M. William Shakespeare: his True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam. As it was played before the Kings Maiestie at Whitehall vpon S. Stephans night in Christmas Hollidayes. By his Maiesties seruants playing usually at the Gloabe on the Banckeside.
Date: London : Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Church-yard, etc., 1608. 
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: C.34.k.18, title page
View online bibliographic record

This is the first edition of King Lear. It was printed in 1608 by Nicholas Okes, most likely within a year of when Nathaniel Butter and John Busby registered the play with the Stationers’ Company on November 26, 1607. Lear was probably written in 1605 or 1606, as there is record of it being performed at court in December of 1606 (Oxford Companion, 244). Scholars believe that this edition shows the play as Shakespeare first wrote it, while the text in the First Folio (omitting about 300 lines from the quarto version, and including about 100 new lines) is a revised version. Despite the fact that today King Lear is considered one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, both the Stationers’ Company register and the title page of this edition refer to the play as a “history.”

The copy shown above is one of two held by the British Library, and is one of eleven recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue. It was once owned by the noted Shakespearean bibliographer J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps. To learn more about this copy, and the other copy held by the British Library, please see their Shakespeare in Quarto page.

To learn more about the plot and early printing history of King Lear, please see the Folger’s Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare's Works, and the British Library’s Shakespeare in Quarto.

Written by Folger Shakespeare Library staff

Sources
The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare,
 eds. Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), s.v. "King Lear." 

Martin Wiggins and Catherine Richardson, British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue, Vol. V: 1603-1608 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), s.v. "1486. King Lear." 
 

Last updated February 23, 2017